OCEANPORT, N.J. — King for a Day put race-long pressure on Maximum Security and then was able to pull away in the final 100 yards to score an upset victory in Sunday’s $150,000 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Maximum Security, made the 1-20 favorite by the crowd of 24,062, dug in gamely after setting all of the early fractions despite stumbling at the start before the Todd Pletcher-trained King for a Day surged late for a one-length victory.
It marked the first time in six career starts that Maximum Security did not cross the finish line first in a race. The Jason Servis-trained colt was back racing for the first time since May 4, when he became the first Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified.
“It stinks getting beat but that’s horse racing,” said Servis. “I think (the stumble) cost me the race, really. I got beat, what – a length? Tough day.
“I think his next race will be better. I needed to get this out of the way. I was glad to get this out of the way even though he got beat by a nice horse. I think his next race will be better. I hope. But I think it will be.”
Jockey Luis Saez said Maximum Security was too eager at the start and then showed some of the effects of the lengthy layoff late.
“He hasn’t run for a while so he was a little desperate in the gate. He wanted to break so he broke so fast he stumbled,” said Saez. “He was all right after that but I sensed he was getting a little tired.
“I’m not disappointed. Definitely not. He will be okay. I think he needed the race. This is horse racing. Anything can happen. He’s a real good horse. That hasn’t changed. I think the next time he will be okay.”
The next time for both King for a Day and Maximum Security could well be a rematch in the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational on July 20. Both horses have already received invitations to Monmouth Park’s showcase race.
Anthony Sciametta, who oversees Pletcher’s string at Monmouth Park, said Pletcher and the connections of Red Oak Stable would make the decision on the colt’s next start. A son of Uncle Mo-Ubetwereven by French Deputy, King for a Day came in off a sharp victory in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico in his 2019 debut on May 18. King for a Day has now won three of his five lifetime starts.
“He ran the same way at Pimlico. He’s good right now,” said Sciametta. “He was good down in Florida before we sent him to Pimlico and after that race Todd took him to Belmont and Todd said he never missed a beat.
“He’s a nice colt. Everyone associated with this horse has been high on him. He’s a competitive horse. He likes fighting like this.”
Sent off at 5-1 in the field of six 3-year-olds, King for a Day sat off the flanks of Maximum Security for most of the mile and a sixteenth race, refusing to allow the Florida Derby winner to get too far away from him.
The final time was 1:42.59.
Joe Bravo rode the winner, who paid $13.80 to win. The Servis-trained Direct Order was third, another 5¾ lengths back.
“The horse has been coming into his own,” said Bravo. “I texted Todd Pletcher this week and he called me back in two seconds to tell me how high he was on this horse. He was in full control the whole race. Maximum Security stumbled the first couple of jumps and I am sure that hurt him a little bit and he was playing catch-up the rest of the time — even though he was in front until we got to him late.
“I just tried to keep my horse relaxed and ride my horse. He was good when he needed to be.”
Servis had been wrestling with the decision all week whether to bring back Maximum Security for the Pegasus Stakes or to train him right up to the Haskell Invitational.
“It was a tough week,” Servis said. “He was feeling good this morning. I sent him out. He was jumping and kicking. I think the stumble hurt us a lot.”
A Bit Of Both Scores Easily In $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes
On Staurdy, June 15, Jason Servis saw another one of his 3-year-old standouts turn in a sharp performance as A Bit of Both captured the featured $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes by 2½ length.
A Bit of Both, trying grass for the first time, posted her fifth win in six career starts. She has never been worse than second.
A Bit of Both, a private purchase by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Darsan Inc. after she won her debut by 11¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park last Sept. 18, has won by a combined 30¼ lengths in her five career victories.
The speedy daughter of Paynter-Lizzie K by High Fly covered the 5½ furlongs in 1:03.31, paying $5.40 to win as the favorite in the field of nine. Queen of Bermuda was second, 1¼ lengths ahead of Missmizz
“I had a feeling she would be as good on the turf as she has been on dirt. She ran good,” said Servis. “I was a little surprised she went right to the front and showed the same speed on turf as she has on dirt. You never really know with that.
“She got a little distracted in the stretch and that worried me a bit but it worked out. Now we have some options with her. She’s a talented filly.”
The only anxious moment with A Bit of Both occurred from mid-stretch on, when she drifted to the grandstand side of the turf course. She wound up on the opposite side of the track as the runner-up.
“First time on the grass, I think she was trying to figure it out a little,” said jockey Nik Juarez. “She was a bit green today on the grass. But you can tell that she is a good one.”
Prancing Warrior Wins James “J.J.” Crupi Memorial
Earlier on Saturday’s card an emotional Chuck Spina celebrated one of the most personally meaningful victories of his training career when Prancing Warrior, with Jose Ferrer up, captured the James “J.J.” Crupi Memorial — doing so in gate-to-wire fashion in a field of 13 Jersey-breds.
Crupi, who passed away on May 23 at the age of 79, was Monmouth Park’s leading trainer in 1978, 1980, 1992 and 1993, with Spina calling him “my best friend for the past 40-plus years.”
“We met in 1973 and I spent every day with him until the past 20 years when he moved to Florida (overseeing New Castle Farm in Ocala), and we still talked every day up until the day he died,” said a teary-eyed Spina. “He broke all of the babies I have and we would buy all of our horses from him. So it’s pretty emotional.”
Ferrer was gleeful after the victory in the $59,375 allowance optional claimer, saying Crupi “gave me my first job in racing in 1982 when I came to this country from Puerto Rico. I was a hot walker for him.”
Sent off at 13-1, Prancing Warrior covered the six furlongs in 1:11.65, easily holding off Wildly Good Lookin.
“It’s hard to put into words what it means to win this race named in his honor. It means a lot,” said Spina.
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